Articles

This is how the Army convinced pilots to fly one of its most crash-prone planes

Let's face it – some planes are tough to fly. The F4U Corsair that served in World War II and Korea was called the "Ensign Eliminator." The F-104 Starfighter and AV-8B+ Harrier have both been called the "Widow Maker."


So. too, was the Martin B-26 Marauder.

The B-26 Marauder was a medium bomber with two engines. According to MilitaryFactory.com, it had a crew of seven, a top speed of 282 miles per hour, a range of 675 miles, and the ability to carry up to 5,200 pounds of bombs.

In this scene from a USAAF training film, an instructor walks a new B-26 pilot through taxiing. (Youtube screenshot)

It also had a bad reputation early in World War II for crashing and killing its crews. In fact, according to aviation historian Joe Baugher, the B-26 was nearly cancelled because of all the crashes. But experienced crews went to bat for it, convincing Sen. Harry Truman to relent.

The bomber ultimately flew over 110,000 sorties, and dropped over 150,000 tons of bombs on the Axis.

One of those who helped prove the B-26 wasn't a killer was Jimmy Doolittle, fresh from leading the Tokyo raid. He soon realized that many of the instructors were almost as inexperienced as the pilots they were training. Worse, the mechanics were not experienced, and weren't maintaining the engines properly.

To top it off, a switch in the type of gasoline used had been causing damaged to the carburetors.

James H. Doolittle (Photo: Wikipedia)

Doolittle soon took the plane up – in the type of lead-from-the-front leadership that would later get him in hot water with Gen. Eisenhower on more than one occasion. He would fly the plane with one engine shut down on takeoff, then he would make inverted passes at low level. But the Army also began to work harder on training the crews properly, and the manufacturer sent crews out to train the mechanics.

The Army also made a training film for prospective pilots of the Marauder, which you can watch below.

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